By Lauren Wanko
It’s back in Atlantic City. That famous wave, the crown. The Miss America Pageant is returning to New Jersey this September.
“Just two days after Christmas, I got a call on my cell phone from the lieutenant governor saying, ‘We hear your contract has expired in Las Vegas and before you sign an extension would you consider bringing this thing back to Atlantic City?’” relayed Miss America Organization President and CEO Art McMaster.
Officials call it a “shot in the arm” for Atlantic City, a city they’ve been working to re-brand as a family-friendly resort getaway.
“We love the casinos in Atlantic City, but we’d love to make Atlantic City more of a destination for everyone, and that’s why it was so important for us to bring the Miss America Pageant back,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Thousands of fans from every state in the nation are expected to descend on Atlantic City leading up to the pageant, fans who are also expected to pump millions back into the local economy.
“We’re gonna have 20 pre-production days and all kinds of events that lead up to the main event. You know what that means — spending, visitation,” said Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director John Palmieri. “I would be guessing a little bit, but in my experience with other economic development initiatives like this, I would expect that we’ll have $20, $30 million in impact at a minimum.”
And Miss America could bring a much-needed financial boost to the city’s casinos.
“Twenty thousand rooms exist within the city. Most of them are within casino campuses so we expect that the casinos will benefit,” Palmieri said.
Atlantic City, like so many other shore communities, is struggling to lure back tourists after Superstorm Sandy hammered the coast. But their greatest challenge isn’t rebuilding. It’s getting the message out that the boardwalk and casinos weren’t damaged by the storm.
“This event, not only today, but the faith the pageant organizers have in the Jersey Shore and Atlantic City specifically will debunk the myth that the Jersey Shore is not open for business,” Guadagno said.
“The economic benefits are going to speak for themselves, but I think the message, the communications message as part of our public relations campaign is gonna just be enormously important. People still don’t fully understand beyond the immediate region that we’re open for business, that the boardwalk is open, that the casinos are all open. And so this will make that statement in bold script,” said Palmierie.
The three-year agreement is expected to be finalized later this month. Officials won’t give any details on costs involved just yet. And the date of pageant — set to take place in Boardwalk Hall — hasn’t been scheduled either. But officials say this town is ready for the crown.